Being rushed is not my idea of a vacation. Sleeping in if the weather is not cooperating or if you had a late night, is the only way to vacate your routine world. In Orlando its easy to do just that, if you let yourself guide your pleasures with no preconceived schedule of go, go, go. The off-season is a good time for visiting high traffic vacation areas like Orlando, Florida, if you don’t mind a little less car traffic, short lines and easier reservations.
I stayed at the Mike Ditka Runaway Beach condominiums, which are very near highway connections that can whisk you away to Disney World, Universal Studios, and the main attractions found near International Boulevard. The Runaway Beach resort is placed around a pleasant lake and pool with home-like condos. Mine was a very comfortable and surprisingly quiet one bedroom, bath, living room with full kitchen and table, along with two wide-screen TVs. Internet service is available in the lobby – if you must. The cost is comparable to a moderate hotel stay, but with a ambience and comfort levels that make you feel like you are a Florida resident. Nearby are utilitarian shopping opportunities for food, gasoline and convenience store items. It was the calm and peaceful accommodation that fit the slowdown lifestyle I was after. (www.runawaybeachhotel.com)
Having been to WDW many times I opted for my one day amusement park experience to take in my first time at Universal studios. http://www.universalorlando.com I got a one day, two park pass and upgraded to the express ticket that places you at the front of most lines. Even though in this off season visit I might not have needed it, (and was almost talked out of buying it at the ticket counter), I enjoyed the hassle free line-hopping. It enabled me to see most of the thrill rides and attractions at both parks in a 6 hour half day. I also opted for the preferred parking upgrade, and was not disappointed there either.
My only regret is that the Harry Potter section of the park was not yet completed, but that was assuaged by a Martini outdoors at the hard rock cafe, before dinner at the Latin Quarter at City walk – all on Universal’s park-once property. The food, atmosphere, and entertainment at the Latin Quarter was top quality with Alejandro Kartal offering a world-class guitar concert during an enchanting dinner. (www.kartalmusic.com)
Of course if flying in, you need a rental car and I keep finding great deals on the Hot Wire or Priceline-like sites. If you know you are going to be in an area, you can book and pay for the car in advance at very low rates. I am particular about whom I fly with and where I stay, but a car to me is just a car.
With the GoOrlando Card (www.GoOrlandoCard.com) I was able to take in both the Pirates dinner show on one night and the Arabian nights dinner show on the next. Both shows offer family entertainment while you are fed in an amiable and fast food production line of service. Choices and food quality were good at both shows, and while it might seem a bit pricey, it is an evening’s entertainment offered at few places around the world.
The Pirates Dinner offered a pre-show skit and acrobats along with pirate face-panting for the kids. The elaborate pirate ship set and live action performance level in the main arena was admirable. The plot and dialogue not memorable, but the good time the performers seemed to be having was contagious. (http://www.piratesdinneradventure.com)
The Arabian Nights offered prime Arabian stock: from a Black Beauty stallion to a western paint horse. Again a story line is supposed to tie the horse performances together but was really only a device to showcase horse and rider. Beautiful horses, and acceptable food, provided another pleasant no-care evening. I upgraded here as well and took a pre-show tour to the stables to be able to see the stock up close, take pictures, and even pet the equines. (www.arabian-nights.com)
After the show I headed down the boulevard to the IceBar, where even in the dead of Winter the IceBar in Orlando, on International Boulevard, is a refreshing diversion. If it’s 33 degrees outside or 90, it’s always 27 degrees inside the IceBar, which is made up of 50 tons of ice walls, counters, benches and carved sculptures. Even the glasses are made of ice, insuring the frostiest of vodkas. The management offers parka capes and gloves for the visitor’s 45 minutes in the sub freezing room, where customers immediately know they are not in sunny and sometimes sweltering Florida.
The IceBar does not offer Martini glasses made of ice. If so, that would have made the experience really over the top. The lighting subtly changes colors during your stay, adding to its other worldly nature. The fee for the IceBar may vary according to season, and again according to season there may or may not be a line. When I went vodka shots started at $8 with the frozen glass, and subsequent “refills” were cheaper, unless you ordered one of their premium Vodkas. They offer a Four Oranges Vodka that is made in Florida…go figure? It was pricey but good.
Past visits to Orlando have left me exhausted, but this time it was an ala carte experience tailored precisely for a relaxed state of mind. Plan your trip at: http://www.visitflorida.com/orlando